Back in the early half of the 2000s, there was a renewed awareness of the roles first responders and other emergency service volunteers played in our communities, spurred by the 9/11 tragedy. And there were also growing worries about increasing difficulties the Woodstock Fire Companies or Woodstock Rescue Squad were facing finding new volunteers to replace their aging ranks.
A committee came together to put together an event to honor the town’s firefighters and EMTs…as well as everyone who volunteered for local organizations, community events, and so forth in Woodstock. Everyone from Family, Meals on Wheels and Woodstock’s many arts organizations to the dozens who serve on town zoning, planning and other such boards were contacted for lists of everybody they knew who volunteered services. A decision was reached to put on a giant picnic for everybody, including full families, instead of the usual “rubber chicken” sort of tribute dinner. And the general public would be invited to buy into the day’s events, as both a means of sharing in the honoring, and realizing what it took to put the Woodstock community together, day in and day out.
“We must have handed out hundreds of certificates of appreciation in those early days,” recalled Barry Samuels, who joined former teacher, school board member and county legislator Sam Magarelli and a host of others in getting the now-annual event underway. “We decided to piggy back the event onto the Guitar Festival, which was happening around the same time, and the fireworks. And the thing started to pay for itself with people contributing for the next year’s event after the fireworks ended.”
“Last year we handed out over 1300 certificates,” added Magarelli this week, in between last minute deadlines with printers and vendors. “I’ve seen them framed on people’s walls, and even amongst the memorabilia at someone’s funeral…”
Both men, who serve with Angela Sweet, Tamara Cooper, Kevin Sweeney, Michael Stock and Allison West on the Woodstock Honors & Appreciates Its Volunteers Committee (WHAIVC ), pointed out how the idea is to honor everyone who volunteers, as well as the very act of volunteering.
“Part of our mission has been to create a model for the town’s children, to show them how much we value the volunteer spirit,” said Magarelli. “When people volunteer, they set aside their politics and biases. It becomes a lot harder to see anyone as ‘the other’ when you’re working besides them.”
For Saturday, August 20, the official schedule for the 7th Annual Volunteers’ Day features a free picnic lunch for honored volunteers, identified by “Guest of Honor” badges picked up at a special tent, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in an Andy Lee Field that’s been “dressed with hundreds of balloons and three big tents,” as well as a Jump House, giant slide, jugglers and clowns for the kids.
Food is coming from pretty much the entire gamut of local restaurants, with Family’s Tamara Cooper helping to coordinate pick up of donated dishes from 26 stops on Saturday morning…and all set up in a massive smorgasbord in a special tent for the honored vols.
Regular guests will be able to purchase hot dogs, hamburgers and other food at a separate tent, along with vouchers for use on the kiddie rides.
“You want to get their early because the picking’s tend to get slimmer towards five,” noted Magarelli.
Concurrently, Rennie Cantine’s Guitar Festival — which kicked off last weekend with concerts on the Village Green and at the Bearsville Theater, will provide entertainment throughout the afternoon. The line-up starts with Bruce Ackerman at 1 p.m., followed by Gordon Wemp and Bill Pfleging at 1:30 p.m., the Lindsey Webster Band with Keith Slattery, Peter Buettner, Kyle Esposito and Mike DeMicco at 2 p.m., J.V. Squad with Joe Veillette, Jerry Mitnick, and Charlie Pistone at 3 p.m., and the Paul Luke Band at 4 p.m.
Look how many there are
Among the volunteer organizations whose members are being honored will be the Woodstock Rescue Squad, the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Family of Woodstock, Woodstock Fire Companies #1, 2, 3, 4 and their Ladies Auxiliaries, Woodstock Area Meals on Wheels, Friends of the Library, the Woodstock Library Board, Woodstock Community Closet, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, Woodstock Town Court Mediators, all the volunteers for the Town of Woodstock Boards, Committees and Commissions, Village Green Gardeners, Woodstock Food Pantry, Angel Food East, the Christmas Eve Committee, Habitat for Humanity, the Woodstock Cemetery Association, American Legion Post 1026 and Auxiliary, Sons of the Legion, Onteora Central School District Trustees, the Parent Teacher Association, Staying in Place, the Woodstock Memorial Society Cemetery Association, Hospice, the Woodstock Soccer League, Woodstock Little League, the Woodstock Volunteers’ Day Committee, everyone who replaced the sidewalk along the cemetery, the volunteers for the Woodstock Farm Festival, Ulster Corps, volunteers for the Spring Clean Up, volunteers for the Thanksgiving Dinner, volunteers for the Christmas Dinner, the Woodstock Beautification Committee, Women In Black, the Overlook Fire Tower Committee, the American Cancer Society, The Historical Society of Woodstock, One Voice, the Woodstock Youth & Family Council, as well as the boards and volunteers for Maverick Concerts, The Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, the Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, the Woodstock Playhouse, Pan American Dance Foundation, the Woodstock School of Art, the Woodstock Film Festival, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, Performing Arts of Woodstock, the Bird-On-A-Cliff Theater Company, the Woodstock Poetry Society & Festival, Woodstock Fringe and the Woodstock Timebank.
Talk about a community’s backbone…
Making Woodstock click
“In the beginning, it was mostly volunteers who came to the picnic,” Magarelli said. “But over the years it’s been steadily expanding so that now it’s about 50/50 in terms of volunteers and non-volunteers, including quite a few tousists.”
Talk about getting a unique view of what makes Woodstock click, alongside its other big “private” parties such as the Library fair and Santa’s Arrival each Christmas Eve.
As for the gap between the five o’clock-ish finish of the picnic and the 8 p.m. honoring of a Volunteer of the Year, with fireworks starting a little after 9 p.m., everyone said that was planned.
“Everyone likes a crowd,” Magarelli volunteered. “But we wanted to make sure there wasn’t a logjam.”
Talk about coordination…
Following the fireworks, at 10 p.m., the Guitar Festival wraps up with a final concert at The Colony Café, also on Rock City Road just a few steps away from Andy Lee Field, where Nicole Hart & Heart Attack play, featuring local faves Pete Levin, Jerry Marotta, Charlie Kniceley and John Cariddi.
Full day, indeed.++
For more information on Volunteers Day visit www.volunteersday.org.
For listings and more information on the Woodstock Guitar festival visit www.woodstockguitarfestival.us.
Alf award at 8 p.m.
Ralph Goneau had a very good summer, what with the issuance of his marriage license to his beau of decades. But it all really started last summer when he was the surprise winner of the annual Alf Evers Award for Volunteer of the Year that gets handed out as part of Volunteers’ Day at Andy Lee Field each August, just before the big bash’s fireworks finale.
In addition to Goneau, past winners of the award, which will be announced at 8 p.m., have included Andre Neher, Duncan Wilson, Kathy Longyear, the entire McLary family, and the late Mescal Hornbeck.
According to Woodstock Historian Richard Heppner, it all started as part of the first Volunteers Day celebration in 2004, when the town formed a committee of lifelong, or longterm, Woodstockers who “knew the town and its people.” That committee, he added, has changed little over the years, but operates with a certain informality, taking nominations form people in town while also talking over the sorts of people who have shown “a lifetime of giving back to the community.”
“It’s like time service, in terms of the volunteering acknowledged,” Heppner continued. “A person may not be active just now, but spent 40 years doing things before hand…”
He went on to say that the fun of the award announcements is its surprise nature. Those getting the award don’t know they’ve been considered beforehand, but have to be on hand to accept their honor, once granted.
“So far it’s worked,” Heppner said of the awarding of a certificate and copy of Evers’ Woodstock: History of an American Town. No one’s ever missed the ceremony.”
Consider that element of suspense a warmer months version of Santa’s arrival on the Village Green each Christmas Eve, with a similar eye to gift-giving.
Although, as the town historian added, “It’s not a popularity contest.”++